Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a former executive who helped build companies including IMAX Corporation and Coupons.com but it was my two young daughters (now 10 and 12) that inspired me to create The Startup Squad. When I was a kid, I was always trying out new businesses – selling gummy bears, sorting baseball cards, making mix tapes, and much more. As an adult, I worked with visionary CEOs and founders to help them turn their visions into successful companies. I’m a lifelong New Yorker who moved out to Silicon Valley in 2008 but still have a place in my heart for New York City and especially the Hudson Valley. I’m an avid University of Michigan sports fan, foodie, and I love to travel – and I love doing all of those things with my wife and two daughters.
What exactly is The Startup Squad?
The Startup Squad is a brand and initiative to empower girls to reach their potential, no matter their passions, through entrepreneurship. I want to get girls excited about opening their first lemonade stand and to teach them basic business concepts. Not because I want every girl to grow up to start her own company (although that would be great!), but rather because I believe that the experience of entrepreneurship – learning basic business skills, grit, a growth mindset, and most importantly how to fail and get back up to try again – will help girls reach their potential in life no matter their passions.
What inspired you to start The Startup Squad?
It was a combination of two things. The first was watching my older daughter struggle to sell Girl Scout Cookies and later run a charity bake sale with a friend. Her enthusiasm levels were quite high but her business skills not so much. I cut her some slack because she was eight years old(!), but I realized then that she was missing the basics of concepts such as sales, marketing, and customer service.
Then came the Rainbow Fairies. Those of you who know this 100+ book series are probably cringing as you read those words. Those who don’t know the books, consider yourself lucky. They are the lowest common denominator of marketing to girls. It was book number fifty-something of the series that pushed me over the edge while I read it to my younger daughter. I gave the Rainbow Fairies a little credit for helping my daughter’s imagination and desire to read, but why couldn’t we provide the same benefit while also inspiring girls? That moment, lying in bed reading books with my girls, was the inspiration for The Startup Squad.
How did you come up with the name?
I wanted a name that signaled the entrepreneurial aspect of the series to parents but for the girls to just think that it sounded like a fun series about girls who were starting something. Then, after reading the book, my hope was that the girls would be inspired to open their own lemonade stands or businesses that called to them. I want to reach every girl, not just the girls who are already interested in entrepreneurship. Girls who are interested in business already have a head start; I want the brand to reach girls who never thought about starting their own businesses in the first place and inspire them to start their entrepreneurial journeys. I must have considered well over 100 names but The Startup Squad was always at the top of the list and I feel is the perfect brand for this mission.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book series?
Here’s a blurb about the book (we have a blurb!).
The start of an exciting new series, The Startup Squad encourages the entrepreneurial spirit in young readers with a fun, accessible voice and a heartwarming story of friendship. When their 6th grade class holds a fundraiser for an upcoming field trip, four girls who barely know each other are tasked with starting a lemonade stand—and competing against their classmates to raise the most money. But Resa just takes charge without asking, Didi takes on more than she should handle, Harriet screws up the sign, and Amelia bristles under Resa’s orders. They’re going to have to listen to each other and work together if they want to win the prize! But the recipe for success is tough to perfect, and there’ll be some sweet and sour moments along the way… The story is seamlessly woven with challenges that teach basic business concepts. The back matter highlights tips that readers can use to start their own business and will feature one amazing girl who means business!
Can you tell us about Be The Boss: The Startup Squad Search for a Girl Who Means Business?
As an added inspiration for girls to start their own businesses, each book in The Startup Squad series will feature a girl entrepreneur and her business. We know there are amazing girl entrepreneurs across the country so we launched a contest to try and find one special girl while promoting all of these girl-run businesses. Girls between 7-14 can have an adult upload a one minute video about their businesses to www.thestartupsquad.com/contest and we will post all the videos in our gallery of girl entrepreneurs.
Is there anything on the rise for The Startup Squad?
There is so much given that we just got started. Right now the focus is on our contest and featuring as many girl entrepreneurs as possible. In September, there will be a public vote to select a handful of finalists from our entire gallery of contestants. In October, the winner will be selected via a public vote of the finalists. Finally, in May, The Startup Squad book will be released – just in time for summer lemonade stand season!
What is your favorite part about running The Startup Squad?
That’s the easiest answer of all these questions: the impact on the girls. 88% of nearly 100 girls who read the first manuscript said that it made them want to start their own business – and I know of a number who already have. I’ve heard so many stories of girls reading the manuscript then opening a lemonade stand that weekend. Nine year old girls asking their mom what they should do “about word of mouth” to find new customers. Some girls are even taking their newfound passions a bit too far and getting into trouble for running their businesses in their elementary school (whoops!). Stories like these push me forward and drive my desire to share the book with girls around the country.
What is your least favorite part about running The Startup Squad?
This has been an amazing journey that has had everything I could have wished for: a steep learning curve, a mission about which I feel strongly, and a positive impact on the world. The only downside is that it takes a long time to build a brand and write a book. As I write this today, it has been almost exactly four years since I had the inspiration to create this brand.
How do you spread the word about your company?
Social media is an obvious route but since our brand just launched we are starting from scratch to build our social followings. We’ve been supplementing our social media outreach with a few influential websites (like She’s Fit to Lead!) but also reaching out directly to women’s and girl’s organizations that we know would be supportive of our mission and asking them to help spread the word.
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
I’m a big believer that failure isn’t not succeeding. Failure is not trying. Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, tells the story that at the dinner table her father used to ask her to share something that she failed at that week to impress upon her exactly that point. Writing the first version of my manuscript was the most difficult and humbling thing I have ever tried to do. I still remember the fear of sharing my first creative output with someone. It was so scary to expose myself like that to others. But few decisions are irreversible and taking that scary first step is better than taking no action at all.
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? 🙂
I have two, the first “borrowed” from the CEO of IMAX – “It’s never as good as it looks or as bad as it seems.” That mantra has always helped me manage the highs and lows that come with building a business. The second quote was written by Robert Hunter in the Grateful Dead Scarlet Begonias – “Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” I can think of few stranger places for inspiration to hit than lying in bed on a Sunday morning reading books with my girls.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Yes! Please help support the amazing girl entrepreneurs at www.thestartupsquad.com/contest and let us know about any other inspirational girls we should feature in our first book. Links to our social media accounts are below if you would like to help spread the word about the contest and to learn more.